Our 37-Man British & Irish Lions Squad
The Lions tour of New Zealand is still several months away but that hasn’t stopped us from looking forward to it already.
Coming off the back of a massive series win over Australia, absolutely smashing the Wallabies in the final test, the Lions face the daunting task of trying to take down the back to back world champions, New Zealand.
The 2017 tour includes the usual three test matches along with some huge midweek games against the likes of the Crusaders, the Chiefs and the Maori All Blacks. You can view the full schedule here.
A lot has changed in the last few weeks when you look at the potential make up of the squad. Ireland not too long ago according to many of the leading media outlets, were set have little influence. That all changed when they secured a memorable victory over the All Blacks in Chicago and took down Michael Cheika’s Wallabies.
The Six Nations will have a massive effect on the make-up of the squad, but it’s safe to say that a lot of names already have their spot on the plane guaranteed next summer, barring any injuries over the next few months.
FRONT ROW: Jack McGrath (Ireland), Mako Vunipola (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Dan Cole (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), WP Nel (Scotland), Dylan Hartley (England), Rory Best (Ireland), Jamie George (England).
In the front row we reckon Tadhg Furlong will be on the plane next summer if he continues his current run of form and will be locked in a three way battle for a test spot at tighthead with Dan Cole and WP Nel, with all three in serious contention. Nel was ruled out today for the Six Nations, leaving potentially a spot there for someone like Samson Lee to come in. Rory Best and Dylan Hartley will go head to head for a test spot, but we think the Ulsterman has the edge.
SECOND ROW: Alun Wyn-Jones (Wales), Maro Itoje (England), Devin Toner (Ireland), George Kruis (England), Jonny Gray (Scotland).
In the second-row department England’s duo of Kruis and Itoje are guaranteed, after that it’s open season. Jonny Gray will battle it out with the likes of Iain Henderson who has the back-row versatility on offer and Alun Wyn Jones need a good Six Nations to prove he’s still up to the job. Players like Courtney Lawes, Donnacha Ryan and Joe Launchbury will be waiting to pounce.
BACK ROW: James Haskell (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Sam Warburton (Wales), Billy Vunipola (England), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland).
This is where things become really difficult. The back-row options on offer to Gatland are ridiculous. We’ve dropped the likes of Chris Robshaw and Toby Faletau, because as things stand they really need to prove themselves fitness wise come selection time. Billy Vunipola is also out injured, but should play some part in the Six Nations. Warburton will travel but not as captain, nor will he start in the test games as things stand. Stander and O’Brien can fill in at eight if needs be in the midweek games leaving plenty options there. We’ve also got three out and out sevens and several players that can slot in at six.
HALF BACK: Rhys Webb (Wales), Conor Murray (Ireland), Ben Youngs (England), George Ford (England), Dan Biggar (Wales)
Murray leads the way by a country mile at nine as things stand followed by Ben Youngs. After that you’re left with Laidlaw or Webb in our opinion, with the Welshman being a better option if he can stay fit. We’ve got with just two men for the test 10 jersey in the form of Ford and Sexton. Sexton needs to prove his fitness over the next few months to sure of his place, but realistically should go. Farrell and Hogg act as cover at ten for the midweek games should they be needed.
CENTRE: Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England), Garry Ringrose (Ireland), Jonathan Joseph (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales).
Another tough one here but we’ve gone with the shock inclusion of Garry Ringrose based the fact that Jared Payne will miss the start of the Six Nations. Ringrose will now get his chance in green alongside Henshaw and we’re backing him to fulfil his potential and explode onto the scene in a similar fashion to Maro Itoje last season. He’s also proved he can play at inside or outside centre at test level along with his Leinster teammate. Huw Jones and Jamie Roberts miss out for us but England’s Jonathan Joseph and 2013 tourist Jonathan Davies get the nod.
BACK THREE: George North (Wales), Liam Williams (Wales), Anthony Watson (England), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Mike Brown (England).
Once again Gatland has a lot of options here. Halfpenny has to be considered due to his versatility and kicking game. His spot however is in danger and will need a good Six Nations to solidify it. Kearney doesn’t travel for us unfortunately but England’s Mike Brown does. Hogg leads the way for a fullback test spot while the wings are up for debate. Should Anthony Watson get back to form when he recovers he should get one. North’s performance’s have been indifferent and will have the likes of Andrew Trimble, Simon Zebo and Jack Nowell breathing down his neck. If Zebo can bring his current form into the Six Nations, he will travel. Who’s spot he takes, remains to be seen.
1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (C)
3. Dan Cole/Tadhg Furlong
4. George Kruis
5. Maro Itoje
6. CJ Stander
7. Sean O’Brien/Justin Tipuric
8. Billy Vunipola/Jamie Heaslip
9. Conor Murray
10. Johnny Sexton
11. George North/Liam Williams
12. Robbie Henshaw
13. Jonathan Joseph/Garry Ringrose
14. Anthony Watson
15. Stuart Hogg